Chapter Two MEISHAN IF you go up the Yangtse River, beyond Hankow, past the famous gorges into the westernmost province of Szechuen, and further follow the river past Chungking to its origins, you will come to a giant stone Buddha, three hundred and sixty feet high, carved out of a mountain cliff on the bank. Here at the western border of the province and at the foot of the giant Omei Mountain, the highest in China, is Loshan, called Kiachow in the days of Su Tungpo. At this point the Min River flows into the Yangtse. The Min River, coming down from the north- western mountains of the western aborigines, rushes down in a big and deep torrent and, joining another river coming down from the Omei, makes a straight dash for the Giant Stone Buddha of Loshan, where the river then turns gradually south-east and then east to flow directly into the China Sea. Lying in the shadow of the eternally cloud-covered peaks of the Omei, and some forty miles north of Loshan, is the town of Meishan, in Meichow district, made famous in China's literary history as the home of the most distinguished literary family in China, This was the Su family, also known as the "Three Sus". The father was Su Shim, who gave birth to two illustrious sons, Su Shih (Tungpo), and Su Cheh (Tseyu). Together the father and sons account for three of the "Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Sung Dynasties." * - At Loshan, then as now, a traveller could go }ip the Polikiang, or Glass River, in a junk to Meishan. The river received its name from its colour, for it was a deep crystal blue in winter, while in summer the torrents coming down from the mountains turned it into a murky yellow. The river was a branch oŁ the Min River, and as Meishan lay halfway between Loshan and the capital of the province, Chengtu, travellers who wanted to go to the capital had to pass through the town. You yrould go up in the junk until you saw the Moyishan, or Frog's Jowl Hill, standing directly over the stream. It was a low, round hill like those we see around Kiangsu. Here was Meishan, the home town of the Sus. Thanks to the engineering genius of Li Ping, who lived at the end of the third century B.C., there was a perfect water control and irrigation system, maintained and kept working for over a thousand years; it made this whole region of western Szechuen into a perennially fertile plain, free from floods. The little hill stood against' a vast plain of rice-fields, orchards, and vegetable gardens, dotted here and there with bamboo groves and curiously dwarfed palm trees. You * Of these eight masters, six are important figures in this book. Besides the "three Sus," the other three are Wang Anshih, Ouyang Shiu, and Tseng Kung.